The Virginia Museum of History and Culture (VMHC) maintains many collections. New items are acquired in a number of ways, including selected donations from the public.
Before an item is acquired for our collections, it undergoes a rigorous review process. Not all items are accepted, because not everything is appropriate for our collections, and because it is expensive to care for and provide access to items.
If you are interested in donating items, please review these frequently asked questions and fill out our Potential Donation Form.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What does the VMHC collect?
We collect a wide variety of materials, including:
Business and organizational records
Q. What doesn’t the VMHC collect?
In most cases, we do not collect:
Items without an association to Virginia
Photographic negatives, slides, filmstrips
Foreign military memorabilia
Q. How do I donate an item?
First, let us know what you would like to donate. The best way to do this is by completing the Potential Donation Form. The more information you provide about your item(s), the more easily we’ll be able to decide whether or not to add it to our collections.
Q. Can I send or bring my item to the VMHC immediately?
Unfortunately, we don’t have staff available to handle unsolicited donations. If you’d like to donate something, the first step is to complete the Potential Donation Form. A staff member who specializes in the appropriate collecting area will follow up with you. If we are interested in learning more about the item, then an appointment to bring it to the VMHC can be arranged.
Q. How can I tell if the VMHC already owns an item?
With limited space and resources, our interest is in growing the collection only where gaps exist or in areas of particular interest. In general, we are not interested in adding items that duplicate those already in our collection. As such, you may wish to search the collection before submitting a Potential Donation Form. For printed materials (books, journals, newspapers, articles), organizational records, personal papers, genealogical materials, sheet music, broadsides, and maps, check the Library Catalog. For other items, including photographs, check the Museum Objects Catalog.
Q. Does the VMHC ever buy items for the collection?
Only in exceptional cases. On these occasions, we cannot suggest or set the purchase price but can only react to prices set by the seller, in keeping with ethical practices.
Q. How is the decision made to accept or decline an item?
Each item is different, but factors we consider include the item’s historical or cultural significance for Virginia, physical condition, whether or not the VMHC already owns a similar item, and the item’s ownership and use history. Potential additions to the collection go through a rigorous review process and are also subject to a vote by the VMHC’s Acquisitions Committee.
Q. Can the VMHC appraise my item?
Because of its standing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as an interested party, the VMHC cannot appraise or assign a monetary value to items. Those looking for appraisal services may wish to consult their local yellow pages or this list of appraisers for a referral.
Q. Do donated items go on exhibit?
Some do, although only a small percentage of the VMHC’s collections are on exhibit at any one time. That’s because we have limited gallery space and because long-term display can have negative effects on preservation. Items in the VMHC’s collections that are not on exhibit are kept in secure, climate-controlled storage for optimal preservation.
Q. Are items not on exhibit accessible to the public?
Yes. Depending on the type of item, different arrangements may be necessary for viewing. Books, journals, newspapers, articles, business and organizational records, personal papers, genealogical materials, sheet music, broadsides, and maps may generally be viewed in the library during regular library hours. Viewing photographs, objects, and other items may require scheduling an appointment in advance with a staff member. In addition, many items can be seen online.
Q. Can I get a tax deduction for my donation?
Donations to the VMHC are generally tax deductible. Consult with a tax specialist to determine your eligibility. In most cases, an appraisal of the donated item is required to receive a tax deduction.
Q. Can an item donated by me or my ancestors be returned to me?
Items that have been formally accessioned into the collections cannot be returned to the donor or their descendants. At the end of the donation process, donors are asked to sign a Deed of Gift which legally transfers ownership of the items, as well as all associated rights and interests, to the VMHC.
Q. Does the VMHC accept loans?
Loans to the VMHC are made for specific periods of time and are never permanent. Long-term loans are accepted only in exceptional circumstances, and with the approval of VMHC leadership.
Who To Contact
Still have questions? Please contact the applicable staff member:
Manuscripts, maps, and newspapers Eileen Parris Sallie and William B. Thalhimer III Senior Archivist phone: 804.342.9675 e-mail: eparris@VirginiaHistory.org
Museum artifacts and photographs Rebecca Rose Director of Museum Collections and Registration phone: 804.342.9679 e-mail:rrose@VirginiaHistory.org
As a private, non-profit organization, we rely on the generous financial support of our friends and members. Gifts to the Annual Fund support all aspects of our operations, including maintaining collections, mounting exhibits, producing society publications, educational services, training of volunteers, and staff. We also are pleased to discuss outright gifts, deferred gifts, gifts for special projects, and gifts of stock.